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The Uniqueness Of Each Person

I’m always amazed when I think of how God created a world that’s filled with incredible diversity and variety. There are different kinds of colors, tastes, sounds, foods, scenery, animals, ideas, types of leisure… (and the list just goes on and on). But one area that is especially intriguing to me is the variety of people He has created. In fact, everyone is different. There are no two of us alike. We are each special.

In spite of our great diversity, the Bible says that we were all created in the image of God. Therefore, we all have some things in common, things that make up our ‘humanness.’ We’ve already noted that all humans have the capacity to think, reason, make decisions, worship, communicate, create, appreciate beauty, etc. We also have similar limitations and needs. We all need food, shelter and clothing. We also need to be loved and to love others. We are also constrained by our physical capacity and strength, knowledge, mortality, and senses, to mention just a few of our limitations.

But do these similarities make us all identical? Not in the least! Though we have certain traits and characteristics that we share, we’re also very different from one another. Everyone of us is unique, a one-of-a-kind, special, limited edition! This uniqueness doesn’t happen by accident. It’s also part of God’s grand design and plan. Even our striving to affirm our own identity isn’t accidental. When a child pulls away from his parents to assert his own unique personhood, he’s really just trying to discover more fully who he really is. This is healthy and normal behavior, part of God’s plan for self-awareness.

God’s Involvement

God forms each one of us lovingly and intentionally. We’re not just an “accident-of-nature” (as many atheists and evolutionists would have us believe). There’s purpose, planning, and design that led up to our existence. Our parents were certainly involved (obviously), but so was God. Whether our parents rejoiced when they received the news of our pending arrival, or regretted their decision to procreate and conceive, we are here nonetheless, because God wanted us here!

David talks about the unique role that God plays in bringing us into existence in Psalm 139:13-15.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

David has become a voice for each of us, expressing gratitude to God for His creative involvement in making us. God was intentionally involved in making us who we are, both inwardly (“inmost being”) and outwardly (“my frame”). The inner man has to do with our personalities, our mind, will, and emotions, our likes and dislikes, our strengths and weaknesses. The outer man is our physical bodies, our appearance, physical strength, natural coordination, etc.

To show God’s personal involvement in making us, the Bible uses words and phrases that capture the notion of nurture and creativity: “knit together,” “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and “woven together.” The psalmist also indicates that God created us with a purpose and destiny in mind, even determining the number of days we would live. Though this passage doesn’t tell us exactly what that purpose is, elsewhere the Bible makes it clear that we exist to bring glory to God (Ephesians 1:11-12), and to live in a personal and eternal relationship with Him (John 3:16).

Unfortunately, in spite of God’s affirmation to the contrary, there are many people who have become convinced that their life is unimportant or useless. Some even consider themselves a burden to society, thinking it would have been better if they had never been born. Nothing could be further from the truth! God has created each of us in a way that is unique and special. Each of us is designed to bring Him glory in a way that no one else can. He wants to accomplish His good works in each of us and through each of us.

Individual Uniqueness

Some social theorists affirm that children are born as a ‘blank slate’ and our surroundings alone are responsible for determining who we become. In other words our environment determines who we are. According to Scripture that is not totally true. God makes each person unique in many special ways. While the environment has an ongoing and significant impact on our lives, God has already written on our ‘slate’ when He created us (Psalm 139:13). He has given us each a unique personality as well as natural strengths and weaknesses. He has given us unique abilities as well, such as hand-eye coordination, ability to play an instrument, artistic ability, intelligence, etc.

Everyone of us is unique, a one-of-a- kind, special, limited edition!!

When we become a Christian, God’s creative work in our lives begins again in a different way. When we trust Christ, God gives each of us spiritual gifts through the person of His Holy Spirit. These abilities enable us to have a unique ministry to believers and unbelievers (I Corinthians 12:7). In fact, most of us have a combination of several gifts. These gifts become evident as we go about helping others in effective and enjoyable service. God also calls us to specific ministries where we are able to employ our special gifts in ways distinct from others. For example,Paul was called to have a ministry to the Gentiles while Peter was called to have a ministry to the Jews
(Galatians 2:8). Sometimes He will even change our ministries as we mature.

God continues to bring about change in us throughout life. He employs agents that work internally (the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures) and agents that work externally (angels, circumstances) to conform us to the image of Christ. There are other forces that God uses to shape us, but one of the most profound is the influence of our family. This environment creates a climate for both good and bad in our lives. It takes wisdom and maturity to process this influence in a healthy way. Fortunately, God assures us that He can even use the bad to bring good into our lives (Romans 8:28). He uses all of our experiences, even the unique culture and era that we live in, to bring us to Christ and to mature us (Acts 17:26-28).

Conclusion

God has made each of us special and unique. He’s created us in amazing ways and made it possible for us to contribute to what He’s doing in this world. Every person who comes to Christ brings something that no one else is able to offer. Rather than making us arrogant, this knowledge should cause us to remain humble as we celebrate our special place and affirm God’s sovereign plan for us.

Application:

• Write down the strengths God has given to you, and thank Him for them.
• What are some of the experiences that have shaped your life? Thank God for them
and what He has done in your life through them.

Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

After his seminary education in the United States, Tial Thanga returned to his home country of Myanmar in the early 90’s, which at that time was under a military dictatorship. Since then, Tial has been instrumental in development of schools and churches throughout the country. In 1995, Tial started Reformed Seminary in Yangon.

Tial’s most notable featured is his good natured simplicity and the childlike curiosity he brings to his work developing the next generation of Christian leaders in Burma. I sat down with Tial in my 5th-story hotel room in Yangoon. We had just finished a week of discipleship training with some of his leaders and I wanted to hear more of his story as well as some of the unique opportunities and challenges of discipleship in a Buddhist Burmese context.

You can live stream the Global Disciple Builder Podcast on our Podcast Page, Subscribe via the iTunes podcast app or play on our widget in the footer of our website.

iTunes Podcast Link:

 

WDA’s Restoring Your Heart Ministry had a busy and fun week meeting all kinds of counselors, lay leaders and ministers at The American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference.

Our RYH staff and Booth Volunteers were manning the booth from Wednesday to Saturday and had wonderful time telling people about the benefits of RYH for Counselors and Pastors and Leaders.

We redesigned out RYH webpage to provide plenty of information about how the RYH Group Experience can work along a Counselors group setting and also how a Pastor or Leader in the Church can begin a RYH Ministry.

Check out some of Photos on our Facebook Page too! 

 


Have you ever felt confused and frustrated by the behavior of another person? Or been confused by your own behavior? “Why did I say that?” “Why did I do that?” Understanding people—both ourselves and others—is important to our own personal growth and to our ability to impact the lives of others.

This series of Pocket Principles is designed to help us begin the process of understanding people.

We begin with several benefits that understanding people can bring us.

First, understanding people helps us to understand what motivates their behavior. When God created man, He created him incomplete, and this incompleteness drives a person to try to get his needs met. For example, one of the greatest needs all of us have is for value and worth. We see this need revealed in the ways people seek acceptance, recognition, and approval. From the child’s attention seeking to an adult’s basic insecurity, this need is evident. Driven by this need, a child will often act out to get negative attention, which is preferable to being ignored. An adult will make all kinds of sacrifices to win some positive feedback and may even demand it from others. Even if we deny our needs, we still are driven by them, and our words and actions betray us.

Second, we need to understand people so we can be sensitive to them. The more we understand people, their struggles and needs, the more we can come along side them in helpful, significant ways, communicate their “specialness” and show them their need for God and spiritual growth.

A third reason to understand people is to correct inadequate views of man. There are many wrong views of man both outside of Christianity and within. Our understanding of people must be derived from the Bible. What does God say about man? Since God created us, He knows even more about us than we do about ourselves. In the Pocket Principles that follow we will explore how God has created us, the effect of the Fall of man and the restorative ministry of Christ.

In this Pocket Principle we will begin to define and understand what it means to be made in the image of God.

Biblical Teaching about the Image of God in Man

Scripture makes many clear statements about the image of God in man. The first one is found in Genesis 1:27. “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.”

Although it seems so, this passage is not redundant. The repetition is a Hebrew expression designed to communicate emphasis and builds to a climax. In fact, everything in the creation account builds to a climax: God creates something, steps back from it, admires it and pronounces it “good”. He does this over and over until He comes to the creation of man.

God saved the best for last. It was as if He said, “Okay, what We have done so far is pretty good, but now We need to do something that is even more spectacular. Let’s create man. We need to make him greater than everything else in all of the universe. Let’s do that by creating him in Our image. Let’s make him like Us.”
Mankind was God’s masterpiece, His high point, the climax of creation. Indeed, everything else was made for man, not God. The rest of creation was to be the place where man would dwell and live and move. Man was to rule over, maintain and develop God’s creation. Though all other parts of creation bear God’s mark and design, only man bears His image.

Often Christians don’t appreciate the unique place that God has given them. Psalm 8:3-7 puts it this way: When I consider Your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than “elohim” and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. 

Christians may become too focused on the problem of sin and lose sight of the dignity of man. While it is true that all men, including those who are believers, have an ongoing serious problem with sin, it is also true that all men, including nonbelievers, have been created in God’s image. Psalm 8 tells us that man was made just a little lower than “elohim”. The Hebrew word “elohim” is the name of God used to reveal His might and sovereignty. It is probably best to understand this passage to be saying that God created man just a little lower than Himself. Out of all of creation, man is the only one who reflects God’s image. There is none other like him.

The Meaning of the Image of God in Man

Being made in God’s image means that we are like God in many ways, but not in all ways. We are like Him in that we have a personality, an intellect, a will and emotions. We are also creative, as He is. Look around and see what man has done in architecture, art, medicine, science, and technology. We are advancing in our understanding and in our ability to control the world we live in because God has given us the ability to learn, invent and create, to plan and carry out those plans. We communicate with complex, abstract language. No other animal is able to do this, only man. Man alone bears God’s image.

God’s image is shown in still other ways. Because God is the standard of right and wrong, all men have an inner sense of right and wrong, a moral compass of sorts, a conscience (Romans 2:14-15). Man has a spiritual dimension so he is able to have a relationship with God. He has an innate desire to worship God, although at times it may be misdirected toward false gods (Romans 1:21-23). He has deep longings for a better world, deeper relationships and a more meaningful life. He is capable of having significant relationships and joining with others to do incredible feats (like putting a man on the moon) and creating almost unimaginable objects (such as a space station). Man reflects God more than any other created being.

The Restoration of the Image of God in Man

The fall of man damaged the image of God in man. Although God’s image was marred, it was not destroyed (James 3:9). Mankind is like a classic car that has deteriorated; that seems like a piece of junk. It is rusted, dented and broken. It is easy to discount it as something that needs to be discarded. But it is not a piece of junk. It is a classic car desperately in need of restoration. This is how man is. God’s image in him is marred, but he is an image-bearer who is desperately in need of restoration.

God sent Christ into the world not just to win our salvation, but to restore what has been lost. The goal of the Christian life is to become like Christ. Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). So to become like Christ is to restore the image of God in fallen man. This is God’s goal, His commitment to us.

Although God is renewing us on the inside (our spiritual selves), the outside (our physical selves) is increasingly wasting away (II Corinthians 4:16). This wasting away of the outside will eventually cause us to die physically. In eternity God will instantly finish the work on the inside, and when Jesus returns to earth, He will also restore the outside. We will have a new body fashioned after Christ’s resurrection body that will be suited for the new world that God will create.
In light of what it means to be created in the image of God, we should celebrate the majesty of man. Man is God’s supreme creation. All men, whether believers or nonbelievers, are created with great worth because they are created in the image of God. It is that image that makes the weak, the downtrodden, the defenseless, the old and the disabled significant. We cannot reject them as the world often does because as image-bearers they reflect Him and represent Him in this world.

While God’s image in man gives him value, it does not give him salvation. Although all men were created for eternal life, no man is guaranteed eternal life. It is only as a person comes to a saving faith in Jesus Christ that he receives eternal life and Christ begins to restore God’s image in him. As God’s image is restored, the person begins to be changed from the inside out. He begins the process of becoming more like Christ and is enabled by God’s power and guidance to use His abilities to glorify God and advance His Kingdom. Man was created for great things but his true and full purpose cannot be realized without God. The great tragedy of hell is that some who were created in God’s image and therefore were destined for great things will spend eternity separated from Him.

There are many significant implications of being created in God’s image.

• It should bring forth praise to God for the unique place and abilities that God has given mankind.

• All people have worth and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

• It removes all basis for racism or feelings of superiority or inferiority.

• It is the basis for saying that only God has the right to take a life or prescribe when a life should be taken.

• It is the only true basis for having a high view of man.

• It provides a basis for the argument that man should play an important role in living the Christian life (Colossians 1:28,29; Philippians 2:12,13) as opposed to God doing it all.

Application Suggestions:

• Meditate on Psalm 8.

• Meditate on and worship God for the high place He has given man in the created order.

• Celebrate the majesty of man as you see God’s image reflected through music, art, architecture, technology, etc.

 

Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

New Connections and a Bright Future for WDA Africa

Nairobi 2017 finished Friday with the commissioning of 5 new staff, including new country directors for Congo and Ethiopia. Yesterday, those who are still here drove through Nairobi National Park featuring giraffes, one flustered ostrich, and a big lion fresh off her kill.

The conference I think far exceeded everyone’s expectations. Our 13 African associates connected exceptionally well with each other and our 13 American staff and volunteers, promising to pray for each other and to work together whenever possible. I was thrilled to see them think more strategically about WDA and begin to see it as a truly continental movement.

 

A few fun highlights from the week!

  • I bought 13 kindle fires and uploaded ALL our WDA content (bible studies, books, articles, teaching outlines, workbooks, etc) plus a small library of kindle books for their training and personal reading. The response was very gratifying! And more than one of them stayed up til 2AM reading the rest of the week!*I bought 13 kindle fires and uploaded ALL our WDA content (bible studies, books, articles, teaching outlines, workbooks, etc) plus a small library of kindle books for their training and personal reading. The response was very gratifying! And more than one of them stayed up til 2AM reading the rest of the week!
  • We had a very honoring “roast” for Ken, who started the international ministry 20+ years ago. We shared funny Ken stories and had a time to pray for him as he begins to step back and I take on more leadership. He was also very affirming of me to the guys in my new role.
  • Having Dan Horne, the chairman of the board there was a godsend, especially as our teams broke into country groups and developed strategic plans for nationalizing their ministries. He brought a lot of good business sense as well as a deep pastoral heart for the men.
  • It was so fun to have my dad Paul Harkness with me getting to know the guys, sharing a short devotional Friday morning, and then traveling with our group to the safari on Saturday. Of course everyone loved him and it was gratifying to come back with him to Kenya, the first place in Africa I visited with him back when I was in high school!
  • Restoring Your Heart leader, Nancy Higgins put a fire in everyone’s belly for bringing emotional restoration to their countries. Tanzania, Congo, and Ethiopia are ready to roll as soon as possible! Kenya is planning go through the work books as a team immediately.
  • I heard literally dozens of testimonies about how God had changed the lives of our staff and the people they minister to through WDA and how this week represented a new page in the history of WDA for them. They are going back home with new materials, a fresh passion, and a clearer vision for how to develop disciple-making movements in their communities and nations.
  • There are SO many other fun and significant highlights. But the bottom line is this: We connected with God and with each other this week. That was my biggest goal and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. Now its off to Zambia! More on that to come!

Nate Harkness

WDA International Director